A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lest you should think that hurricanes are linked to 'global warming'.....

Here is access to a new paper recently accepted by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 2005: 'Hurricanes and Global Warming' [.pdf file - Acrobat Reader required]:
"Abstract: this paper reviews recent research on tropical cyclones and climate change from the perspective of event risk - the physical behavior of storms, vulnerability - the characteristics of a system that create the potential for impacts, but independent of event risk, and also outcome risk - the integration of considerations of vulnerability with event risk to characterize an event that causes losses. The paper concludes that with no trend identified in various metrics of hurricane damage over the 20th century, it is exceedingly unlikely that scientists will identify large changes in historical storm behavior that have significant societal implications, though scientists may identify discernible changes in storm behavior. Looking to the future, until scientists conclude (a) that there will be changes to storms that are significantly larger than observed in the past, (b) that such changes are correlated to measures of societal impact, and (c) that the effects of such changes are significant in the context of inexorable growth in population and property at risk, then it is reasonable to conclude that the significance of any connection of human-caused climate change to hurricane impacts necessarily has been and will continue to be exceedingly small [my emphasis]." [© Copyright 2005 American Meteorological Society (AMS)]

No comment is required from me on so expert an analysis. This scientific paper is an interesting test of how far the Barthesian myth of 'global warming' can swamp scientific analysis in the media.

Philip, betting that this does not get much coverage in the UK. Trendy lattes all round.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Simon Jenkins and wind farm vandalism: common sense at last in The Guardian.....

So, iconic Romney Marsh is the next ancient British landscape to be sacrificed in pursuit of the Government's non-sensical and punitively-expensive policy of dumping wind farms where there is beauty and 'wilderness'.

It will not do. This heavily-subsidised vandalism must be stopped. It is surely time to issue a few ASPOs - Anti-Social Planning Orders. We must not allow the Government to continue to destroy our rich landscape heritage for something that will not even work. Sadly, (as I am Labour), this is New Labour at its worst, peddling a poorly thought out energy policy, developed on the hoof, and then stubbornly driving it through willy-nilly despite all the mounting evidence that the policy is entirely misguided:

"First they came for the Welsh
and I did not speak out
because I was not Welsh.
Then they came for Scots
and I did not speak out
because I was not Scottish.
Then they came for the West Country
and I did not speak out
because I was not Cornish.
Then they came for the flat and rolling South ..."

Luckily, Simon Jenkins is now at The Guardian, and today he writes an excoriating piece on the Romney Marsh travesty. In this brilliant article, he righty raises the values of landscape and 'wilderness' over the Government's wind farm follies. At last, Mr. Jenkins is starting to make The Guardian readable once again: 'Better to have nuclear power than a blot on the landscape' (The Guardian, October 28):
"... [A]ll this character is doomed. Even by government standards the Romney turbine decision is a corker. The towers are to be massive, 30 storeys high, despite being surrounded by bird sanctuaries. Their footings must be buried 100 feet in the soft subsoil and require six-and-half miles of new road across the marsh, stabilised by 50,000 tonnes of excavated roadstone. Nobody can say how much energy all this will consume. Of the £50m cost, roughly 70% will come in various forms of subsidy. On any basis, this is a wildly extravagant government project...

...The turbines have been opposed by every parish, district and county council in the area and by every known conservancy body...

... Given the energy that goes into building and backing up turbines there are moves, I am told, to declare turbine power no longer 'green' for global warming purposes...

...The greatest irony is that the Romney tragedy is unfolding down the coast from one of the world's oldest nuclear plants, still pumping out far more megawatts, at Dungeness. Like other early stations - Bradwell in Essex, Hinckley Point on the Severn, and Wylfa on Anglesey - Dungeness was located far from human habitation. There were complaints from naturalists at the time, not least at the pylons stretching across the marsh...

...But nuclear power is at least real power...

...If Wicks [the Industry Minister] can put turbines on Romney Marsh, nowhere is safe. Where poor, flat-chested Romney goes today, the buxom Cotswolds go tomorrow [sounds a tad like different Jane Austen heroines]..." (read the whole article here)

Wind farms are going to prove one of the most tangible disasters of the 'global warming' hysteria.

Philip, seething at the follies that 'environmentalism' is heaping on the environment. Coffee through gritted teeth.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Back to basics: "Tackling climate change".....

From Sir David King to Prince Charles, and daily on the Today programme, we hear repeated calls for us "to do more to tackle climate change." Now, I foolishly believe I know how to tackle a rampaging prop forward, but I would still think twice about attempting to do so. With climate change, I have no idea how to stop so rumbustious a natural phenomenon in its multifarious tracks. Even greater caution is therefore required with respect to any naive call "to tackle climate change." We need desperately to return to basics, and to think through this mantraic phrase.

First, humans can never halt climate change. This is a simple, unchallangeable, Canutian reality. Climate has always changed, is always changing, and will always change. Whatever we do, climate will continue to vary, and sometimes dramatically. Between 1695 and 1733, for example, annual mean temperature in central Britain rose from 7.25°C to 10.47°C. What would the 'global warmers' have made of this? Thus, when some well-meaning soul declaims, "We must do more to tackle climate change", we must always remember that there is no way we can ever halt this particular prop forward. Even if, worldwide, we closed every factory, shut down every power station, crushed every car, grounded every 'plane, and put 4 billion people out of work, climate would still change. C'est la vie climacique!.

We must thus be precise. What is meant is that we should do more to alter the human factors which may be a part of climate change. But what exactly does this involve? First, we are not just talking about emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, but about a whole gamut of human factors, from urban heat island effects through the emission of aerosols to long-standing landscape changes (albedo effects), from the first use of fire to the development of agriculture and cities. Secondly, we must never forget that our human impacts are indeed only one set of factors in a vast array of factors, largely natural, which drive climate, which is, overall, the most complex, coupled, non-linear, chaotic system known.

Yet worse: in "tackling climate change", we are not even contemplating "tackling" all of the human factors, but only one, politically-selected factor out of the thousands, both natural and human, involved. And, for a system as complex and chaotic as climate, this forces us to enter a fundamental caveat: changing one factor at the margins can have no predictable long-term effect on climate. Indeed, both emitting and not emitting gases at the margin is equally unpredictable in terms of long-term outcomes. To put it simply: taking either of the above actions will not, in the light of the thousands of drivers involved in climate change, result in any given 'stable' climate. Indeed, the very concept of a 'stable', or, to employ the neologism, 'sustainable', climate is a breathtaking oxymoron.

Moreover, precisely what climate are we trying to produce, remembering that 'this climate' will itself change? Do we want a Medieval Warm Period, a Little Ice Age, the Climatic Optimum of 8000 years ago, the 'Year without Summer', this or that period of an Interglacial, or this or that period of an Ice Age? Who knows?

Put in these basic terms, the fatuousness of "tackling climate change" becomes glaringly apparent. This hegemonic agenda is deeply misguided and very dangerous.

The only way humans can respond to inexorable climate change is by maintaining strong, flexible economies that can adapt to whatever climate throws at us, hot, wet, cold, dry, or all at once.

It is time to re-learn our human limitations where climate is concerned. Humility, rather than hubris, is the order of the day.

Philip, absolutely fed up with the mindless mantras on climate that emanate from the bien pensant media and 'liberal' elites (who actually want to control everything we do). A big, strong coffee. I do hope you are enjoying the nice warm weather in the UK?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wind power: it's just like letting your money blow away in the breeze.....

A new report from EEF, the leading manufacturer's group in the UK, demonstrates all to starkly the economic folly of supporting wind energy. It really shouldn't even be a starter.

Broken wind turbineThe new EEF report shows that, when gas and carbon prices are high, nuclear power is the most cost effective energy provider, at under £40 per Megawatt hour (MWh). Gas comes a close second (also under £40 per MWh), followed by conventional coal and clean coal (both under £50 per MWh). By contrast, onshore wind is nearly £60 per MWh, while offshore wind, at over £70 per MWh, is just punitive. A government must have money to burn to contemplate offshore wind.

These rankings and differentials remain effectively the same even when fossil fuel prices are low, except that gas then replaces nuclear as the most cost effective (at under £30 per MWh). This, however, makes offshore wind more than 3 times the cost of gas. Yet more money to burn.

Wind energy is thus the surest way to undermine UK competitiveness and growth (not to mention punish the poor domestic consumer - and voter). Unsurprisingly, EEF regards wind farms as an unrealistic option for providing a fifth of UK energy needs. Quite so. Instead, they call for an urgent rethink on nuclear power: 'Manufacturers call for nuclear build as part of balanced long-term energy strategy' (EEF Press Release, October 24):
"EEF, the manufacturers' organisation has urged the government to back replacement nuclear build as part of a balanced sustainable long-term energy strategy for the UK.

The call is made in a major report published today which sets out a wide-ranging future energy strategy for the UK, to deliver a secure, reliable and competitive low carbon energy supply and which does not rule out any options.

The UK's energy supply has taken on a renewed sense of urgency given large rises in prices (50-80% for manufacturers contracting since the summer) and fears over supplies in the next two winters..."

We are going to pay dearly for the government's prevarications over a realistic energy policy. To date, New Labour's approach to energy has been a disgraceful shambles and one which has not even succeeded in meeting its own farcical 'Green' targets (carbon dioxide emissions have risen markedly since Labour came to power). But worst of all, along with all the other political parties, there has been a culpable failure to address our central energy requirements for the next 50 or so years. These must comprise some mix of gas, clean coal, and nuclear power.

The rest is ephemeral, just blowin' in the wind.

I feel extremely sorry for manufacturing and industry in this area of public policy. It will lead to tears, perhaps even before this winter is out.

See also: the leading article in the 'Business' Section of today's The Times; for once a relatively good piece in The Guardian (October 24): 'The answer is not written in the wind' ; and, 'Manufacturers urge Government to take action to solve power crisis' (The Daily Telegraph, October 24).

Finally: 'Fission returns to fashion' (Time, October 23).

Philip, increasingly angry at the damage 'Green' utopian twittering has done to our energy policy in the UK. A strong, black coffee is required this morning. And, how can we trust the government over energy, when, with a stated lead policy of "Educashun! Educashun! Educashun!", it can't even spell key words: 'FURTHER ACTION NEEDED TO CUT EMMISSIONS ACROSS EUROPE, MORLEY TELLS EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONFERENCE'? [Hat tip to Barry Hearn for spotting this dire bit of Defranese.] Watch to see if they change it! Espresso doppios all round.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Parrot update.....

Breaking news: the UK parrot reported dead in Friday's blog (below) has been confirmed this evening as having a strain of the H5N1 flu virus close to that known from ducks in China: 'UK parrot "had deadly bird flu"' (BBC Online News UK, October 23):
"A parrot that died from bird flu in UK quarantine did have the H5N1 strain that has killed at least 60 people in Asia, the government has confirmed..."

The current theory is that the parrot, which was imported from Surinam, South America, caught the virus while being held at a quarantine facility in Essex along with with birds imported from Taiwan. All the birds which came into contact with the parrot have now been culled.

It is looking increasingly likely that the import and export of all exotic bird species into and out of Europe may be halted as a precautionary measure.

Philip downing oysters So this weekend, it was very much a case of "Eat oysters, drink beer and be merry, for tommorrow we cough and wheeze!" The new season of our native European oyster, Ostrea edulis, makes up for a lot. "Down the hatch!"

"'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
'You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one."

(From: Lewis Carroll, 'The Walrus and the Carpenter', 1872)

[Upper Right: Stott the Sybarite, as photographed by 'She Who Must Be Obeyed']

Philip, I might soon have to rename 'EnviroSpin', 'The Daily Squawk'. "Get off yer perch, Stotty!" "Now! Where did I put that coffee?"

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

WWW EnviroSpin Watch

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?